The Membership Guys

7 Boring But Important Things You Need to Know When Running a Membership

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Running a membership involves spinning a lot of plates…

Some spark your passion and fill you with joy…

Others… not so much!

I mean it can't be fun all of the time, can it?  

Owning a business comes with responsibilities…

Dotting the i's and crossing the t's to make sure your membership operates in the right way and is fully protected may seem boring…

That's probably because it is for some of us…  

But this is the kind of stuff you can’t ignore.

It's in the best interests of both you and your members to make sure you're on top of your game when it comes to the ‘boring' stuff…

So are you? 

Let's find out…

Here are seven boring but super important things you NEED TO KNOW when running a membership…

1. Be aware of the legal ‘stuff'

There are certain legal elements related to your membership site that you need to have in place…

Like the terms and conditions on your sales page…

This should cover things like money-back guarantees, how refunds are managed…

Privacy laws and legal requirements in the country where your membership is based…

It should also take into consideration how access to your site is managed…

This will make sure your membership site ticks all the boxes from a legal perspective.

If your terms and conditions are particularly complex…

The best thing you can do is get advice from a lawyer.

If that’s not possible, there are some great resources online to help you draft them like TermsFeed or Termageddon

As well as your terms and conditions, there are other things to think about…

For example, if you have guest speakers delivering courses or live streams inside your membership…

Who owns the intellectual property rights?

You need to have all of your bases covered so both you and your guests are clear on where you stand.

If you’re an Academy member, we recently delivered a workshop all about Working with Guest Contributors…

Which outlines the best approach to use for bringing people into your site to deliver content for your members…

And gives you all of the resources you need to help you follow it…

Including a Contributor Agreement Template. 

You happily inviting guest experts into your membership knowing you have an agreement in place…

This is the kind legal stuff that many people overlook early on in their business.

But it’s very important to get this all in place from the get go.

2. Take care of the tax

Let's face it, no one wants to think about tax…

But it’s completely unavoidable when you're running a business.

For membership owners, one of the most recent things we've had to wrap our heads around is “Digital VAT”.

Many people struggle to figure out whether they should charge VAT if they sell online products or services to countries inside (and outside) of the EU…

It can be a bit of a minefield!

Then there are tax returns, payroll, and bookkeeping to deal with as well.

Save yourself the headache and hire an accountant…

Trust me!

They will advise you on the best structure of your business and what you need to do in terms of tax…

For more guidance on Digital VAT 2015, there’s a great Facebook group that you should join for input and advice on that particular tax.

It's worth mentioning that it's not the only tax related issue to consider…

But it's the one membership owners tend to struggle with the most.

3. Data protection and privacy laws

Yes, you guessed it…

I’m going to mention those four wonderful letters we’re all tired of hearing…

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). 

Knowing what GDPR is and how it impacts memberships is something you absolutely need to have covered…

And you need to get it right!

If this is something you want to get clued up on…

Don't worry, we've got your back with our Essential Guide to GDPR for Membership Site Owners…

Make sure you check it out.

Another useful resource is Suzanne Dibble’s Facebook group, GDPR for online entrepreneurs, as well as all her other online resources.

4. Make sure you have insurance

Running an online membership usually means you're dispensing advice…

And with that comes an element of liability.

Someone might follow your advice and their business or life implodes in some way…

Maybe they lose money or don’t get the results they were hoping for…

And they blame you so decide to sue you for giving them bad advice.

This isn't something that's going to happen day-to-day…

But it's something you should protect yourself against with professional indemnity insurance.

If your membership also involves sending out materials, equipment or welcome packs…

You'll almost certainly need public liability insurance as well.

For example, if you send out branded pens and part of it comes loose…

And someone chokes on it…

They might (rightly or wrongly) decide to take action against you.

Hopefully, neither of these scenarios will ever happen…

And they may sound ridiculous…

But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Speak to an insurance advisor to find the best option for you.

5. Intellectual property and copyright

The great thing about the internet is the openness and accessibility it provides…

But sadly this leads to a sense of entitlement in some…

With some people believing that anything on the internet is fair game.

Terms like “fair use” and “public domain” have become seriously misunderstood.

So a LOT of people think it's fine to copy and paste content from one of your blog posts…

Or turn the main points from one of your podcast episodes into a blog…

Or go as far as stealing a worksheet you created and adding their own logo to it. 

People just don’t seem to realize that this sort of thing is copyright theft.

And it can be difficult to know what to do when someone steals your content

It's actually happened to us before.

Most of us who are running a membership are selling some form of intellectual property…

We’re in the information business.

We’re selling our knowledge and expertise…

And so we want to fiercely protect that to make sure we don't get ripped off.

The last thing we want is someone joining our membership, copying everything, and putting it on their own site…

And profiting from our hard work.

6. Handling payment disputes

Anytime you offer something for money…

Especially a recurring thing like a membership…

You need a have a plan in place for dealing with payment disputes.

Do you have a plan in place to manage this request from your members?

At some point, you’ll probably have a situation where people ask for a refund…

And you decide not to give them one…

So they go off to their payment provider or credit card company and accuse you of fraudulently taking money…

It's not always a case of them taking revenge because you haven't given a refund…

It could be something as simple as someone not recognizing your name on the transaction on their bank statement and calling the fraud team at the bank.

When you’re handling a lot of transactions…

As you do when running a membership… 

It's very likely that this will come up.

Having a good process in place for payment disputes will increase the chances of you winning…

And not being unfairly penalized by payment processors for having a dispute.

7. Stay on top of website security

When running a membership, you need to know about website security…

Particularly if you're using WordPress.

The platform itself is not inherently insecure…

But it is the most popular Content Management System in the world…

So it's important that you stay vigilant and follow the best practices in terms of  how you operate day-to-day…

Using website security tools, password discipline…

And limiting who has access to your site!

The truth is that most security issues arise from human error.

So educating yourself and your team about website security is one of the best things you can do to keep your WordPress membership site secure.

Yes, this is all very boring…

But as I've explained, it's all super important…

These are all things everyone running a membership needs to be on top of…

And be prepared to manage effectively so your membership business doesn't suffer. 

These are things that won't be fun doing or setting up…

But it’s a lot more fun than running into tax/copyright/payment dispute problems.

We’ve shared a few links and resources with you…

So that’s a great place to start if you’re not sure of anything…

We hope it helps!

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